Dear Penny: I Have a ‘Quick Claim’ Deed. Must I Change It For My Will?

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Dear Penny,

I recently drew up a will with a lawyer. I wanted to put my three children on my deed so they would receive my house after my death. The lawyer said that could be done, but when he got a copy of my deed, he informed me it was a “quick claim” deed. I had added my husband at the time to the deed, but he has since deceased.

The lawyer tells me that I have to get that deed changed. I recorded my husband’s death certificate at the time of his death thinking that then I would be the only one on the deed. This is going to cost me some money and I want to know if I really need to do this. Thank you so much for your information.

— Willing Homeowner

Dear Willing,

What your lawyer is referring to is actually a quitclaim, but “quick claim deed” is a common misnomer for it because it’s quicker to process than a typical deed, called a warranty deed.

A quitclaim is, like it sounds, a way for someone to eliminate their claim to ownership in the property and transfer it to someone else. The problem your lawyer is probably aware of is that, unlike a warranty deed, a quitclaim doesn’t offer any guarantee that the person had a claim to the property in the first place.

That means, in theory, there could be a lien on the property or someone else with a claim to ownership that could stop you from legally transferring the property to your children. In contrast, a title search and a warranty deed would guarantee you have that right.

Dear Penny

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A quitclaim is usually not used in a real estate sale. Instead, it’s used when there’s a property transfer without a sale, like if you received the property from a family member. In your case, it sounds like you used a quitclaim to grant your husband (shared) ownership in the property. Ask your lawyer what this means for your claim to the property.

If you’re unsure about your lawyer’s advice, you can always get a second opinion. Consult with an experienced real estate attorney to discuss alternatives.

If you decide to update to a warranty deed, the process is fairly simple, but, as you mentioned, it’ll probably require some legal fees unless you’re comfortable navigating your county or state’s process on your own. Search in your state for how to perform a “quiet title action,” a process inviting anyone with a claim to the property to name it. Once you confirm there are no other claims to the property, you’ll have a clear title, and you can move forward with drawing up a warranty deed that’ll let you transfer the property to your children. 

Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance®, author, speaker and personal finance journalist. She writes Healthy Rich, a newsletter about how capitalism impacts the ways we think, teach and talk about money.